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The sport of boxing is one of contrasting fortunes…whilst it can be a path laden with riches and fortune, more often than not is one which bears little reward for years of dedication.

For every Oscar De La Hoya or Floyd Mayweather there are 10 or more professional’s who don’t hit the heights they may have hoped. The reasons can vary, from simply not having the same talent too not having the same opportunities.

Given the risks involved in the sport it would be easy to think that for those who don’t quite make it they would simply give up and make a living without the discomfort of being hit in the face.

So why do so many professionals continue to box despite not finding the success they may have hoped for when first starting out. Whilst it may be a case of holding out hope for that one big opportunity or pay day that will make a difference, the answer is much simpler…they do so because of an unwavering belief in themselves that they can make it.

This is a sport where one cannot question their ability; they must have complete faith in themselves and complete dedication to their craft. From day one a boxer is ingrained with a steely determination which extends to life outside of the ring not just within it.

One such person is Suz Member. Having turned pro and made his debut in 2007, the first Preston-born Asian to turn professional in any sport, has managed to only grab 6 bouts since. Injuries, licence difficulties and other problems are to blame yet despite this he is still as determined as ever to make something of himself in the pro-ranks.

In those 6 bouts he has won 5 with his only loss coming via a 5th Round stoppage against Terry McDermot. All of his wins have come via stoppage showing that he has power in his fists.

At the age of 33 he will certainly have to pick up the pace if he wishes to achieve success in the paid ranks but for Suz he has already tasted success in a manner which is immeasurable. Like so many boxers Suz spent his youth getting into trouble,

‘It was never anything major but I was getting into petty crime and just generally being a nuisance to other people’

He now spends his time not only training to realise a dream but also using his past experiences and love of boxing to help other kids within the community. In 2009 he was chosen to help troubled youths in a government mentoring scheme and it is this work which he gets the most pleasure from.

‘I do a lot of charity work, talks at youth clubs and visiting young offenders institutes because it’s important to give back to the community and remember where you came from’ said the Preston boxer.

‘Anything is possible in life, if you want to do something and have a positive attitude, you can achieve it.

This attitude has allowed him to build up a following amongst the community who turn out to support him whenever he boxes. With no sponsors, promoter or managers behind him it is not only his job to fight but to also ensure he gets fans coming to come see him.

‘When I box in these hall shows I often have to go out and sell the tickets myself to drum up interest. I’m lucky because I have a good fan base and people are always willing to come out and get behind me. I am always surprised at how many tickets I sell and it’s humbling to know people want to come and watch me’.

Speaking to him it’s clear that whilst he has had difficulties since joining the pro ranks, he ultimately looks past them all knowing that he is lucky to be doing something he loves.

‘People often come up and ask me whether I feel the pressure to succeed but I always say that being able to do this is no pressure, it is a privilege to be in this position’

Following a difficult 5 years which has included a 2 year layoff from training due to a shoulder injury Suz is now hoping that he can kick on with his career and show first hand that anything is indeed possible if you are determined enough.

Given his commitment to community causes then it is perhaps no surprise that it is this work which may just give him his biggest break since joining the pro ranks.

In May this year he had an email from the Zambian government asking if he would like to go over. As it turned out they had been seeking sports men & women to promote various sports and help mentor young talent following the countries surprise African Cup of Nations victory.

For Suz it is an opportunity that he plans to grasp with both hands regardless of what becomes of it.

“I haven’t even been to Africa before but there aren’t any boxers in Europe who have had the chance to go over there. I just see it as a privilege.’

“A lot of people will think it’s a strange place to box, but I couldn’t resist.

“I will be able to expand my horizons, see a fascinating country, help other people and gain some valuable boxing experience.

“At the very least, it will be an adventure,”

With various discussions now out of the way talk has turned to getting TV coverage of his fights. He has been informed that the fights will air on Zambian television as well as on other African TV stations and the hope will be that he can gain some UK coverage for what is just another chapter in a man’s quest to not only realise his ambitions but help others realise theirs.

Courtesy of members of the 606v2 forum and others I had the pleasure of putting forward a number of questions to Suz Member during a Q& A session. This can be found below:

1: How did you first get into boxing…at what age & at which gym?

I was 11 and started out at Preston & Fulwood Amateur boxing club.

2: You said that you had got into trouble when you were younger…what kind and do you think it was because of the people you hung around with or just a by product of the person you were at the time?

I just got into petty crime and began to hang around with the wrong crowd. It was never anything major just getting into scraps and generally being a nuisance to people. They were actions I can’t blame anyone else for because they were my decisions, albeit it wrong ones. Yet they are what make me the person I am today.

3: When first lacing up the gloves what thoughts & emotions were going through your head?

Excitement and fear, that is still the case today although the fear is much more controlled now. Anyone who enters the ring regardless of how many fights they have had should still have that mixture of emotions if they don’t then they shouldn’t really be in there.

4: Did you get into boxing as a way off the streets & out of trouble or did you get into the sport because you had a passion for it?

I got into boxing because of my love of the sport

5: Who do you look up to within the sport? Who was your favourite boxer growing up and has that changed since being in the sport?

Funnily enough my inspiration was the film Rocky! I bought the book as a child and read it all in one night, I was hooked. It hasn’t changed because I still believe in the message of the story that if you want something badly enough it can be yours. The impossible dream is achievable by anyone.

6: If you could step into the ring with anyone in your weight class, past or present, who would it be & why?

No preferences, I would fight anyone from any era. The era’s gone by fascinate me…the likes of Duran, Hagler, Hearns, Ali etc. They just loved to get in the ring and fight it didn’t matter who it was with. That is something which is lacking in the modern era now. There are too many protected fighters and not enough bouts where the best fight the best.

7. You can attend a 12 week training session at any famous gym with any trainer…who would you pick?

The late great Manny Steward, champion maker extraordinaire. He is up there as one of the very best. Again he was old fashioned in the way he trained his fighters and that’s what I liked. He didn’t go about changing fighters whole game…he studied what abilities they had and then utilised them to cover up any weaknesses in his game. He would just build on the tools a fighter and that helped them become so much better.

8. If you could be at ringside for any fight from the past which would it be & why?

Prince Naseem Hamed v Steve Robinson in Wales. Naz went into a hate filled cauldron and gave a boxing masterclass under immense pressure and in the end gained respect from a baying crowd. Awesome!

9. Which sparring partners do you use, or who uses you? Who is the best and in what way?

I spar with all comers and they all have good and bad points. To be honest I use and learn from all of them. It’s easy to get the impression that during sparring people go in there and just knock two bells out of each other…I have seen that happen first hand and hear people talking about knocking people out or breaking noses and just think to myself ‘well what have you learnt’. Sparring should be utilised to work and get to grips with the things you’re learning for an upcoming fight. I see it as a chance to fine tune everything rather than a chance to just go in throwing for 3 minutes per round…of course it does help with conditioning but most of that comes from the roadwork etc you do before starting sparring. I have been paid to spar with certain boxers but I feel it would be unprofessional to reveal who and break my confidence to them.

10. If you’ve been used as a sparring partner were you paid by the round, the day, or the week? How much? Or at times was it for free and you were supposed to be thankful for the experience?

I have been paid to spar but really it’s not a case of earning money but a chance to gain experience. I appreciate the experience and learned from them.

11. Which fighters have you shared a ring with and who in your opinion was the best?

I have shared a ring with British, European & World Champions and any fighter who steps in the ring deserves my respect. I could never pick out one as maybe one day we may meet in anger and I wouldn’t want to tempt fate.

12. Did you have much of an amateur background, if so what success did you have?

My amateur career was not a great one; in fact I lost my first 4 fights. The pro style suits me much better. There is a message there…believe in your ability and never give up.

I actually think that too much emphasis is put on amateur records these days. People are always looking to the next Olympic star or medallist and in the mean time plenty of very good fighters who perhaps don’t have the credentials at that level are being passed up when in fact they could have a style which is much better for when it comes to the pro game.

13: Do you use amateurs to spar? Is there any benefit sparring amateurs? What’s
your opinion on why amateurs are not allowed to train with pros?

Yes I spar with pros and amateurs; the biggest benefit with sparring amateurs is that they always try to prove themselves good enough to be in the ring with you, so you have to be on point for every second of every round. Nowadays a lot of top amateurs do train with the pros so no real separation exists as was the case in the past.

14: Do you feel as though you are used by others as a commodity? Do you care?

Boxing is full of promoters and managers out to make a fast buck. I would say all boxers are used to a certain extent, so boxers have to be a step ahead and use them back. Do I care? Of course, but that’s business full stop so it’s something that has to be dealt with.

15: What do you do supplement your wages? What’s your day job? Do you feel manual labour (say hod carrying) is a hindrance to training or can be effectively used as a training aid?

I am a fire-fighter and the fitness required in my job as a boxer helps my job as a fire-fighter and vice versa. However a boxer who boxes full time does have an advantage in my opinion as they can give 100% focus both mentally and physically to the sport, with no distractions.

16. What type of training do you do? Explain a normal training camp for yourself in the build up to a fight?

10 Week Camp: First 4 weeks totally fitness/weight making orientated then the next 6 weeks are combination of fitness, conditioning, technical boxing and sparring. Of course you still have to focus and ensure you are on target in terms of weight. Then the final 2 weeks is a case of ensuring you are going to make weight properly as well working on my speed and sharpness as well as coming up with a game plan come fight now.

17: Unlicensed boxing is all the rage at the moment; do you see it as a legitimate alternative for journeyman? Bout-for-bout you may not be paid as much but the fights come round more often and they are easier to win. It’s seems a credible little earner, does it not?

Each to their own, I have boxed in underground fighting and un-licenced. I was very lucky as I was paid very well to do so. It is in no way easy however as you seldom know much about your opponent and abilities can very easily be mismatched.

There are plenty of pro boxers out there who like me may have had some rough luck with injuries or just can’t get a fight on a small hall show. It would surprise people to know how many people turn to these in order to make ends meet.

I think there is an image that perhaps it is barbaric and pro boxers shouldn’t be seen anywhere near it but the truth is that plenty of them are run legitimately and are done very well in an extremely professional way…if those who are chasing their dreams in the pro ranks can’t get opportunities then where else are they supposed to turn.

18. Being that you have done some form of unlicensed boxing have you ever considered trying your hand at MMA as an alternative?

No. Though I think we can actually learn something from MMA. You can see how much it has grown in recent years and it is becoming bigger and bigger, here in the UK as well as everywhere else.

I liked the addition of the KO bonus in prizefighter the other week. It’s those kinds of ideas which we can take and learn from when it comes to the UFC etc.

19: You are signing a contract in Africa? Africa has a huge HIV positive population. Do you know of any safeguards to reduce the risk of contraction for boxers?

It’s a very dated and ignorant question really because all pro-boxers undergo full medicals, brain scans and HIV, HEP A/B tests etc so there is no problems there.

20: The cost of living in Africa is small, presumably out there a fighters wages are too? What is your motivation to go? The wages paid won’t get you far in the UK so will be living out there permanently?

The motivation is to box and make the most of the opportunity. Glory comes first and the money second. I will commute initially fight by fight as I may be fighting in other countries.

21: Will you get much altitude training done over there?
All my training there will be at altitude. With the heat and the atmosphere there being very light it will provide a new challenge and one which I relish in overcoming.

22: As well as the health risks associated with the continent are there other risks and dangers which you may face in Zambia…do these deter you from going?

I feel like its all part of the challenge. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be given and as well as helping me and my career it is a chance to show places where people may have a certain perception in a different light.

23: Given your age and difficulties with injuries in the past what is it that makes you think you can still make it in the pro game?

Total belief in my ability. I feel like a volcano which is just waiting to erupt. I have had difficulties and challenges but those have got me to where I am now. I battle demons every day but I never lose faith in myself.

24: Have you ever considered using a banned drug at any stage of your career? If so what drove you to either use or consider using it?

No…Never. I am a firm believer in just good old fashioned hard work. We are in a time where there are so many supplements etc these days that people have an over reliance on them. I don’t even have enough money to be going out and buying protein shakes etc. The likes of Ali & co were all good enough just working hard in the gym, why should it be different now? I think telling people you need this and that supplement etc is part of the problem now…by doing so you are essentially putting restrictions on people’s natural talent/fitness. They begin to question themselves and believe that they have to have the best stuff out there to help…think that can lead to the problems we see with drugs in the sport.

25. With the recent drug scandals which have plagued the sport (Berto, Peterson, Chavez, Morales, but to name a few) do you think enough is being done to combat the issue both on a national and
international level?

As far as I know all pro boxers are drug tested regularly. I have been tested 4 times and have come back clean each time. I can only speak for this country but it seems that people are certainly tested…whether it is done enough is a matter of opinion. I think the problem lies not in the testing but the stance to people who fail tests!

26: What punishments do you think should be handed out to those who fail a test?

Lifetime unconditional bans. This is a sport which automatically puts peoples live at risk just by having two people in the ring. The fact that someone can fail a test and still fight is shocking. By allowing those who fail to carry on everything being done to combat the issue is then negated. You also have to question why these people are still getting opportunities when there are boxers out there doing everything by the rule book and not getting a break or a shot at the big time.

27: As someone who does a lot of work within your community, how do you feel you have changed people’s lives if you believe you have at all?

That isn’t for me to answer really, I would hope I have made a difference somewhere along the way. I think just telling your story and being humble, honest and approachable is enough to inspire others to chase their dreams.

I am not trying to preach to anyone because at the end of the day I am just Suz, a normal guy who still has faults but is working with them to the best of my ability.

28: Do you think the BBBofC do enough at the grassroots of the sport i.e. opening gyms etc or do you feel that much of that side of the sport is left for the likes of ex pro’s and people within the communities?

No I don’t think the BBBofC does not do enough for the grass roots level of the sport. As you mention much of it left to ex pro’s or people within the community. You see many former boxers opening gyms and it’s great but as a sport much more needs to be done. In every other sport the governing body at least partially funds facilities or projects in order to raise awareness and participation in their sport but the BBBofC doesn’t.

I actually think more people should come out and speak because I think there is a fear of repercussions but unless change is seeked then things will remain the same. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion on a matter especially if it is one which you think will make things better.

Given that they take a cut of fight purses up and down the country for sanctioning contests you have to ask where that money then goes. Of course they have people to pay for but since they oversee the sport in the country I believe they should have an interest in funding the grass roots of it.

29: In the past 12 years we have seen a large amount of focus being put on amateur stars from the Olympics…is there a case to be made that boxing is overlooking potential stars by merely thinking that the next big thing will be someone who makes it to and wins a medal at the Olympics?

Yes most definitely, concentrating on young elite will only lose us late developers or fighters who could be more adapt at the pro game. A healthy middle ground needs to be found because as we have seen in the past success at the amateur ranks doesn’t mean immediate success in the pro game. The problem is that promoters see the bigger amateur names as a chance to make a quick buck, it is much easier to get them straight into the limelight…as a result equally good or even better fighters miss out

30: At a national level what changes if any would you make to the sport?

I would make a number of changes. We need to find a way of removing or at least eliminating personal and political agendas and egos out of decision making. This is the one thing which is really hurting the sport.

I would also make accessing pro-licences easier by taking away antiquated decision making policies.

As for the rankings I would change the system to simple points per fight system. This way boxers earn points based on who they are fighting; rankings would be more transparent and fair rather than just favouring big promoters and their assets.

31: In what way do you feel the sport has got better over the years and in which way do you think it has got worse?

Larger and better TV and media coverage has meant huge financial incentives at the top of the sport. However still a sense of those who are backed by big promoters getting all the opportunities regardless of their recent records or there standing in the rankings etc. This means a lot of great pros or boxers who could be great pros are walking away through lack of opportunities, sadly this is an issue which may not change for a long time to come.

32: From covering up failed drugs tests to giving the decision to the wrong fighter there have been many instances of ‘possible corruption’ which people feel has occurred in the sport…have you experienced anything yourself or seen anything occur?

I have never come across corruption in boxing myself or even heard of anything. Personally however it wouldn’t surprise me if did occur. As we have seen in all sports where big money is involved corruption does happen so who knows what may go on.

33: What are your thoughts on using boxing within education? Do you think it is a sport which should be added to the ‘Sports Curriculum’ or do you think it’s too dangerous?

Boxing teaches discipline, self control, honesty and respect. All the things which can help make good adults/people. Of course there are dangers involved but I think it can only do good.

34: As someone who has used his life lessons to teach others what do you think is the most important message you could give to any kid who walked into a gym?

In life you will only get what you are willing to work for.

35: What are your objectives going forward?

To be the best I can be…that is always my goal not just in the ring but outside of it too.

36: Given that you are close to signing a 5 fight deal to go abroad and fight, how many bouts would you ideally like to have in the next 12 months?

Realistically I am aiming for a minimum of 3 fights but if I could get 5 under my belt that would be fantastic.

37: Which British boxing talent most excites you at this moment in time?

The truth is that I measure all boxers against the most exciting and charismatic boxers of the modern era after Ali, Prince Naseem Hamed. I don’ think there is a boxer at the moment is fit to lace his boots so no one.

38: Is there anyone out there who the general fan may not be aware of, who you think has big things ahead of him…if so who is it & why does he excite you?

Yes….Me!

39: Because of you age and lack of fight action do you think that you will now have to take greater risks at lower costs in order get to where you want to go before hanging up the gloves?

Yes but I am a born risk taker and love danger, so bring it on….

40: What would you like to do when you do finish boxing professionally? Are you interested in the coaching/training side of things or would you prefer to focus on using your knowledge and time in sport as a motivational/educational tool within communities and schools etc?

I never look further than my next fight. My focus now is to get back in the ring and push on. I always say that my next great performance will be my next training session, that’s the kind of mentality I take.

I would like to extend my thanks to Suz for taking time out of his schedule in order to do this question and answer session.

If anyone would like to contact Suz himself then you can do so a number of ways:

Email – info@suzmember.com

Website – http://www.suzmember.com/

Twitter – @SuzMember

The scene was set, nearly 20,000 fans piled into the MEN arena eagerly anticipating the return of their hero. Once again British boxing was captivated by Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton. As was always the case at his fights the crowd were buzzing, an atmosphere which only Hatton could create. Excitement washed over those in attendance, leaving the MEN arena rocking long before the ring walks started. As the lights turned blue & the trademark ‘Blue Moon’ rang out the eyes of the boxing world were back on Ricky Hatton.

The noise in the arena was thunderous long before his ring walk and whilst excitement washed over those in attendance there was a sense of trepidation in the air. After over 3 years out of the ring & with the well documented troubles he had faced many were wondering just how the former two weight world champion would fare. They received there answer in the 9th round…

A sharp left hook to the body put Hatton onto the canvas and it was immediately obvious to all that he would not be getting up to beat the count, despite the crowd’s best attempts to roar him to his feet. Whilst there had been a couple of glimpses of the old Hatton during the course of the fight it was clear to see that he longer had the tools to compete at the top. Even before the ending came he had been eating up the right jab of Senchenko. There was little in the way of head movement and the once effective body shots were nowhere to be found. Ring rust certainly played a part in the early goings but by the time the fight had got into the later rounds even Hatton himself knew that his struggles were down to much more than that. He was unable to cut off the ring the way he used to & even when on the rare occasion he got on the inside of the Ukrainian he was unable to put together any kind of meaningful attack.

In the ring was a shadow of the once dominant light-welterweight world champion. Of course there was no shame in that, when everything was looked at objectively there was only one conclusion to be drawn. He didn’t have to much right being there in the first place. Here was a guy who had been out of the ring for over 3 years, much of which had been spent living as far removed from the disciplined lifestyle required of a boxer. In front of him was a former welterweight world champion who had been boxing not just regularly but also against opponents of the higher echelons.

If truth be told Ricky probably did much better than one should of. He was at least in the fight and had enjoyed a good opening 4 rounds. Yet as the bout wore on Senchenko had been gradually taking over. He did nothing special yet Hatton struggled to figure him out. Gone was the ability to cut off the ring and walk his opponents onto the ropes. The sharp jab to get on the inside & the powerful hooks had been replaced by wild swinging ‘chancers’ punches. Even Hatton acknowledged it, stating after the fight that ‘I could see people way up top ducking to avoid them’. That sentence, with a glint of irony & humour captured the essence of what was supposed to be taken from the evening.

This was more than a case of whether Hatton could merely compete. It was a night where he was hoping to finally rid himself of the demons which had built up in a turbulent end to his career first time round. Of course he would of liked have gone out on a win but how many boxers ever end on their own terms? This is a sport where most stick around longer than they should. He didn’t end the bout as the winner but this time at least he walked out of the ring senses intact & answers he had sought found.

As he slumped on the ropes, heartbreak etched across his face, the crowd seemingly came alive once more. The familiar sound of ‘there’s only one Ricky Hatton’ began to reverberate around the MEN and applause followed him as exited the ring.

Immediately following the fight Ricky had declared that he would make no hasty decisions. Thankfully by the time he had made his way to the post fight press conference he had finally recognised and seemingly accepted that this should be the end to what has been an incredible journey.

“I needed one more fight to see if I had still got it – and I haven’t.,” he said.

“I found out tonight it isn’t there no more. I’m a straight-shooter and I tell the truth. I can look at myself in the mirror and tell myself I did my best, but there is always an excuse to find.

“I got in the best shape I possibly could but if I hadn’t been hit with that body shot I would have just scraped over the line with a points win and I honestly think I would still be telling you all the same thing.”

His words were spoken with brutal honesty, delivered as not just an opinion but a statement of fact. Those in the room could see in his demeanour that an essence of realisation had finally been captured by Hatton. He himself had realised that this was the end & all the signals pointed to him being able to accept that.

Those closest to him would have been awash with relief at his announcement that he was calling it a day. None more so than partner Jennifer, who had been a nervous wreck during the fight & a rock throughout his darkest hours.

This time around there would be no hesitation. He had spent months deliberating his decision when he was beaten by Manny Pacquiao, wondering whether he could have done things differently. He looked for excuses and in the end it resulted in him sliding into a dark, solitary & lonely place. He was insistent that this time would be different.

“I’m a happy man tonight. I don’t feel like putting a knife to my wrists, I don’t feel like cutting myself,” he said. “I’ve got the answers I needed. I can look at myself in the mirror and tell myself I did my best.

“I needed to have one more fight to put the ghosts and the demons to bed. If you’re looking for excuses you can always find them, under the bed or in a cupboard. But the top and bottom was that I wanted to find whether I’ve still got it, and I haven’t.”

As he left the ring for the final time it was clear for all to see that this was a man who was still loved by the British public. Their support of him was unwavering and there adulation very rarely seen. Here were 20,000 strong showing up for a man who had not only been out of the ring for 3 years but who had, at least in his eyes, let everyone down.

This show of support provided plenty of evidence that it was a belief which couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact his battle against depression had if anything made that bond to the general public even stronger.

As the curtain draws on his career as a fighter Ricky should look back proud of all he has achieved. World titles were captured in two weight classes and he was an undisputed king at light-welterweight. He gave British boxing some of the greatest nights ever; none more so than his epic encounter which saw him dethrone a Pound for Pound great in Kosta Tsyzu.

Yet perhaps more than that, it is his legacy as one of Britain’s most loved sports men of all time that he should remember.

He never shirked away from a challenge and in an era which has seen plenty of people avoid the best Hatton chased them down, seeking to test his metal against them. His relentless & brutal style along with his attempts to always provide excitement for the paying public should be applauded.

It was these characteristics which connected him to not only boxing fans but the general public. He was a throwback, a man who many could relate to regardless of his wealth & success. As sports people & their way of life became more detached to the normal person he was just another bloke who enjoyed a pint, a pie & a game of darts.

This honesty inside the ring & out which captured the hearts & minds of the American audience. Even now those in Vegas still reminisce on those nights which saw his legion of fans travel across the Atlantic. Never had anyone packed out the strip the way he did…whether it was fight night or the day of the weigh in.

Often boxing fans speak of a need for fighters to capture the imagination of the wider audience. It is a task which is not easy, as shown by the select numbers who are able to do it. In Hatton these shores had a boxer who did that, he provided crossover appeal and gave boxing a huge platform with which to showcase itself on once more.

As he spoke his final words of his retirement speech his aims were clear.

‘’Now I want to be the best father I can be to my kids, the best boyfriend I can be to Jennifer and the best trainer and promoter.”

It is this kind of attitude which will aid him in his quest to move forward without feeling shackled by the past. With a blossoming stable of fighters under his promotional banner, all of which were showcased Saturday night, he has much to look forward to.

The last time Hatton packed away the famous sky blue shorts his life spiralled into 2 years of binge drinking, drugs & weight problems. A struggle to accept the defeat that had befallen him against Manny Pacquiao, but if the early signs are anything to go by then it is a problem which should not arise this time around.

Of course there will be battles, as their always is with boxers who no longer have their names up in lights, but the hope is that this time he will be able to face them as a person who is finally at ease with himself…and if he needs any help then he only needs remember his closing sentence to his retirement speech.

“You may think this is arrogant but it will be a long time before anyone brings crowds like I brought, and I’m very proud to take that title into retirement.”

In that statement he should find solace as a man whose career will go down as one of the most memorable in British boxing. He will long be remembered and will be spoken of as one of Britain’s greatest & certainly most exciting fighters ever…perhaps more than that though his legion of fans will continue to love & support him unequivocally.

On the 1ST of December 2012 David Beckham will play his final game for the LA Galaxy. Almost 6 years after arriving stateside, amid a hord of frenzy and furore, he has decided that now is the time to call time on his career with the MLS outfit. He will hope to do so with one last hurrah as he will seek to help the club to another MLS Cup victory in a repeat of last year’s final showdown with Houston Dynamo.

The 37 yr old former England captain made his announcement in a news release late Monday afternoon.  Given his revelation that he was leaving the club to ‘experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career’, it is obvious that retirement is not yet on his mind.

Many fans have been left a little shocked at the news, with the general feeling being that he would see out a supposed 2 year contract which he had signed in January. The news has been welcomed elsewhere however as a number of clubs were quickly linked with his signature. The worldwide status of the midfielder ensures that he will be in high demand with moves to China, UAE, and Australia already being mooted. In fact even PSG have spoken of their desire to bring Beckham to the club as part of the Qatari’s owner’s project to build the outfit into a global club.

Whilst no move to another MLS team has been rejected, the general consensus is that Beckham will now look to uproot abroad once again. Yet his association with the league is far from over as he was keen to point out.

“I don’t see this as the end of my relationship with the league as my ambition is to be part of the ownership structure in the future,” he said.

He will leave the club with the best wishes of those at LA. The president of Galaxy owners Anschutz Entertainment Group spoke fondly of the player and his impact not just at the club but the league.

Seldom does an athlete redefine a sport,” said Tim Leiweke, the president of Galaxy owners Anschutz Entertainment Group. “David not only took our franchise to another level, but he took our sport to another level. It has been an honour and privilege to be a part of his world, and more importantly, to have him be a part of ours.”

So with the Hollywood pairing of club & player coming to an end just what kind of impact has David Beckham had on the MLS during his 6 year stint? Did he revitalise a league which has often been seen as a laughing stock amongst European fans or was the actual Beckham effect merely a flash in the pan which died out as his stay continued?

It’s safe to say that the most important moment came when initially joining LA Galaxy. At the time he had just been part of the Real Madrid outfit that won the title & whilst entering the twilight of his peak years he was still seen as a player who could cut it at the top. Yet whilst interest was high across Europe he decided that the project of playing in America and trying to build the ‘soccer’ profile was too good to turn down.

A player with honours from the biggest leagues in the World was quite the coup for the MLS as a whole and Beckham fever well & truly landed in the US. Whilst injuries limited his playing time initially he made a huge impact during his first season. Over 300,000 Beckham Galaxy jerseys were sold in that year alone & when he did begin to appear regularly for the club the league saw both TV ratings & attendances rise.

In fact by the end of the debut year of the David Beckham circus the league had seen its largest attendance figures since 1996, the first year of the MLS existence. Overall average attendance was up 8.4 % and the league gained unprecedented media attention. Clubs across the MLS were required to open up additional seating & even play games in close by NFL stadiums in order to accompany the fans who were flocking to see him.

As his 6th season draws to a close figures reveal that the growth in attendance has continued. The league now see’s an average attendance of 18,807 in comparison to 15,504 prior to Beckham’s arrival. Of course some of that is down to the introduction of the larger stadiums but would those have ever have been required had Beckham not arrived?

In the years since Beckham joined the MLS six teams have gone on to create soccer specific stadiums with another two (DC United & San Jose Earthquakes) expecting to make the same move in the coming years.  No longer do teams have to use NFL stadiums as ground shares, often at a cost, which is allowing the club to generate profits from gate receipts for themselves. The other advantage this has brought is enhanced playing conditions and atmospheres at ground due to them being primarily built for soccer.

The league has seen 6 additional clubs join during Beckham’s stay, all of whom have been success stories, none more so than Seattle Sounders who regularly play in front of 38,000 plus.

Such is the growth of the sport it has now overtaken both the NBA & NHL in average attendance becoming the 3rd most watched sport in the US. A position it could only have dreamed about 10 years ago. Another figure which makes positive reading is the leagues standing on a global scale in football. In 2006 they were the 13th most watched league Worldwide…and now 7th.

Another league first upon Beckham’s arrival was the sale of television rights to networks for a profit.

Yet perhaps the most important change which occurred due to his arrival was the introduction of the ‘designated player rule’ created specifically to ensure Beckham could join LA Galaxy. The rule which is commonly known as the ‘Beckham Rule’ allowed clubs to purchase one player whose salary would not affect the club’s salary cap. It has since gone on to be expanded by the league & it now allows for up to three players that fall under this category to join a club.

This resulted in a major change of stance to previous seasons where salary caps were extremely stringent. Due to the change the league has been able to attract higher profile players because clubs can afford to bring them in. Whilst some argue that most of the time they are past their peaks, there is no doubting that having a high profile player can only be good for the game.

Since 2007 the MLS has seen a number of major names sign on to play in the league. Players such as Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Robbie Keane & recently Tim Cahill are all plying their trade stateside and of those 3 still remain active with their national teams…a sign then that the MLS is not merely a retirement league for some of Europe’s best players.

On a personal level the ride has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Injuries derailed much of his first season in the league in the end making just 5 appearances. The following season wasn’t much better as a poor season led to friction between himself and Landon Donovan.

He was also criticised by many fans for a perceived lack of commitment to the club with his continued loan spells back to Europe during the season breaks. This led to chants of ‘Beckham the Fraud’ & ‘Beckham Go Home’ during home games. In total he played in just over 50% of the clubs 176 regular season games from 07-10 and many believed that he had put both his club & the MLS way down on his list of priorities.

However the last 2 seasons has seen him redeem himself with some of his best performances since joining the league. The former England captain showed that L.A. Galaxy was his commitment and the team enjoyed rejuvenation. Beckham and Donovan reconciled, and the Galaxy reached the MLS Cup final in ’11 and ’12, winning it last year. Beckham made the MLS Best XI in a 2011 season that deserved plenty of commendation, and if he goes out on a championship note a week from Saturday it will be a fitting end to his on-field career here.

So can Beckham look back on his time in the USA and be proud? Of course…he came to the league with the aim of helping it grown and that is something he has done. When he joined the league back in 2007 expectations were perhaps a little far stretched…in Beckham the MLS had got their hands on a legitimate Superstar and people expected him to suddenly make the game a phenomenon in a country which has never quite taken to it like the rest of the world.

During his time in the league the MLS has expanded in the number of franchises involved, new stadiums have been built, better players have chosen to ply their trade there & more money is flowing through the league. Of course Beckham isn’t directly responsible for all of this but he was the catalyst to much of it.

The changes may have come about regardless of whether he joined or not but the likelihood is that they would have taken far longer. The growth would have been slower…perhaps to slow. In Beckham they got a crossover sportsman who intrigued the general public and popularized soccer in a manner which hadn’t been seen on Atlantic shores.

Increases in the vital aspects that measure growth have all come about during his time in Southern California and that can’t all be merely coincidence. Was he the saviour of the game in America?…no, but his tenure in L.A. is one of the most important and fascinating chapters in its history.

It will be interesting to see how the league copes in the immediate aftermath of his departure given they are losing not just a footballer but a brand…one thing is for sure; he will be missed by a club whose success in the past 2 seasons has in part been down to the performances of one of the games most highly decorated players.

Following a summer of upheaval and drastic changes it’s safe to say that being a Tottenham fan has been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride these past few months. Yet if Sunday and more importantly the first few months of the season are anything to go by things don’t seem to be getting much easier.

At the conclusion of Sunday’s game against Man City there was a small section of Spurs fans that made their feelings known with a chorus of boos. It seemed strange given that they had just lost to a team who have gone almost two years without losing a home game. Yet the displeasure shown by the fans was more down to the performance than the result itself.

It is not the first time that boos have rung around this season, in fact it had been an ever present sound during the initial start to Villa Boas reign at the club.

After a stumbling start to the season it had seemed that the new manager was beginning to win around those fans who questioned his appointment. A 4 game league winning streak beginning in September seemed to create a change in the mood at White Hart Lane but following a difficult last couple of weeks it seems that the infamous fickle nature of fans is beginning to show again.

Given the fact the club are only 3 points off a Champions League spot and look to set to progress in Europe it seems mad that following defeat to the reigning Champions people are calling for the sacking of the manager. Yet whilst it is only a small section of Tottenham fans who are calling for dismissal of Villa Boas, there is certainly a measure of discontent amongst the clubs supporters.

I should probably state at this point, that this is in no shape or form an article banging the drum for the dismissal of Villa Boas. Instead it is one which aims to point out why the Portuguese is living on borrowed time.

This was always going to be a difficult gig to walk into, despite the fact he was taking over from a man many people had wanted out at the end of last season.

Harry Redknapp whilst not universally liked at the club come the end of his tenure was & still is a fan favourite with many, including the ever present media. During his time at the club he had steered them to two top 4 finishes. Only a Chelsea Champions League victory stopped the club qualifying for a 2nd stint in Europe’s elite competition this season.

He turned the club from an almost ran into a team which was at first seen as genuine Top 4 calibre then even title challengers in the space of 4 years. An incredible achievement given the position they were in when he took over from Juande Ramos.

During his full 3 seasons with the club they reached 2 FA Cup Semi Finals & enjoyed a run to the QF’s of the Champions League in their first season in it. This run included victories over Inter Milan & AC Milan.

A hard act to follow then…made even more difficult after losing both Luka Modric & Rafael Van De Vaart this summer.

The fans were hardly on the edge of their seats with the replacements. Sigurdsson came in from Reading whilst the club also secured the signings of Fulham pair Clint Dempsey & Moussa Dembele.  Already question marks hang over the effectiveness of those purchases with Dempsey not hitting the heights which he showed last year. As for Sigurdsson early signs would point to a player whose worth was perhaps inflated during his time on loan at Swansea. Whilst he is young at 23 one wonders whether he is a player that looks good in mid-table teams but lacks the quality when placed amongst a team who are supposed to challenge the top 4.

One signing which has stood out more than those though was the capture of Hugo Lloris for £12 million. The French number one has over the years been spoken of as one of the best keepers in the World. Yet so far he has struggled to break into the Spurs team ahead of Brad Friedel.

Of course part of that is down to the performances of the experienced American, who on Sunday showed again why he is keeping the No 1 jersey.

Given the lack of depth up front however fans must question why the money was not spent elsewhere. Rumours suggest that the former Porto boss actually had little say in the signing in the first place & if that is the case then it sparks questions as to how much control he actually has at the club.

So with little coming in the way of performances from the new bunch is it any wonder why Tottenham fans are questioning the wisdom of their new manager.

Perhaps the biggest factors in whether Villa Boas will last long in his post however are his tactical nous and the football that is on show from Tottenham.  His stubbornness in his preference for the 4-2-3-1 has left many perplexed and frustrated. Whilst the formation does provide a much more organised set up, it has left the team looking a lot less fluid going forward.

Under Harry Redknapp fans enjoyed free flowing & attacking football. Of course at times that resulted in them being carved open but the fans knew that the team had goals in them. As the clubs lofty league finishes showed…it was a brand of football that could be played with success.

Fans will point to the team needing time to adjust to the formation and this is of course true. Yet they must realise that even if the team begin to find their feet with the 4-2-3-1 the football that they are witnessing will remain. The Portuguese has never been one for attacking football and I’m afraid his way of how football should be played just does not match the mentality of the club.

That in itself will always cause problems and unrest amongst supporters. Will Tottenham be happy to replace the beautiful brand they witnessed for the past few years with the compact & rather negative style on offer under Villa Boas…perhaps but only if it is going to result in finishing higher than 4th.

The other problem with this formation is it is actually stunting the effectiveness of the clubs best player, Gareth Bale. Whilst the Welsh international has shown glimpses of his world class ability the role he is being asked to play simply does not allow him to play in the same roaming and creative manner which made him one of the best players in the world under Harry Redknapp.

This all sounds rather negative especially when you consider the club are closer to the Top 4 than the bottom 3. Yet a closer look at the results so far show the problems which the club are incurring with the formation they are playing. On over half a dozen occasions (including Cup results) so far this year they have taken the lead only to go on and drop points something a team who want to challenge for a Champions League spot should not be doing.

(A)Man City 1-0 up Lost 2-1

(H)Chelsea 2-1 up Lost 4-2

(H)Norwich 1-0 up Drew 1-1

(H)West Brom 1-0 up Drew 1-1

League Cup – (A) Norwich 1-0 up Lost 2-1

Europa League – (A) Panathinaikos 1-0 up Drew 1-1

As already mentioned there was no shame in losing to Man City away this past weekend but what happened in that game was something which is somewhat of a recurring theme. Too often the team reverts into its shell after taking the lead. An unwillingness to go and kill the game off is costing Tottenham valuable points and it is something which will continue to happen when playing a negative system which invites pressure onto the team, especially in the closing 15 minutes of play.

Another reason why I can’t see Boas keeping his job is because I am unsure he has the man management to succeed within this league. He famously lost the most important players in the dressing room whilst at Chelsea and it is something I feel will repeat itself here.

There is the argument that perhaps part of the problem at Chelsea was that player power is ever present in the form of Terry, Lampard, Cole & at the time Drogba. Yet he would have known that heading into the club…every man & his dog knew it…so I don’t buy into as a defence of his average time at Stamford Bridge.

So far this season he has already apparently fallen out with Lloris & whispers of discontent continue to be heard with regards to Adebayor’s happiness (although with his penchant for mood swings they should be taken with a pinch of salt).

How happy the players will remain under his tenure remains to be seen but from the outside looking in many seem unhappy with the roles being asked of them and the shape that they are finding themselves playing in.

Ultimately things may well change for the better for Spurs & its fans but as things stand it’s hard not to think that this may be club that finds itself going ever so slightly backwards. They have lost world class players who have, no disrespect intended, been replaced with inferior quality.

Andre Villa Boas has undoubted talent, the success he has achieved at such a young age has to be applauded. However in order to get to where he is he has had to possess a certain level of single-mindedness & an unwavering belief in his coaching style.

It’s my belief that it is these traits which will ultimately lead to him being dismissed from his second consecutive job in the Premier League. He has to learn to adapt and be open to different ideas when it comes to managing & he has so far shown a real stubbornness at not just Tottenham but Chelsea prior to it, to do so.

Many Tottenham fans will be supportive of him for the time being and I hope they are because clubs who hire & fire needlessly often find themselves in real predicaments…however the raised expectations following 4 successful seasons under Harry cannot be ignored.

Those at the club will only need to look down the table at Liverpool to see that once a club starts going backwards it is even harder to pick them up again. If they miss out on Champions League football for a 2nd year running they could be at risk of losing the likes of Bale and Walker as well as emerging talents such as Caulker & Tom Carroll who have already sparked intrigue.

It’s these factors that will go way some way to determining just how long the top brass at the club can afford to wait around and hope for results to start picking up.

My guess is that patience will be even thinner amongst the board than it is amongst most fans & the result will be a Tottenham team void of Villa Boas at the helm come the end of the season.

Kell Brook has long been spoken of as one of Britain’s top boxing prospects & this weekend will see him step between the ropes in what will be a final eliminator for the IBF World Welterweight title. The unbeaten 26 yr old knows that victory over Hector Saldivia in a bout being called ‘This Is It’ will guarantee not just a shot at the championship but also thrust him into the big fights that he so desperately craves.

As the bell rings on Saturday night however, Brook will know that merely winning will not be enough this time around. In usual circumstances the W in the column is all that counts but this fight doesn’t fall into the ‘usual’ category. Kell is under pressure to perform and put on a scintillating performance & it is a pressure which he is welcoming.

Much of this added pressure comes from the below par performance he put on last time out against American Carson Jones. Heading into the bout the general consensus was that whilst Jones was tough, Brook would have more than enough to handle him & with relative ease. He had the better boxing skills and was better equipped in just about every area.

For the first 6 Rounds Brook was showing everyone just why he was nicknamed ‘Special K’. His footwork and hand speed allowed him to keep Jones at bay, negating his inside game and power. Yet things begin to take a turn for the worse as the fight wore on. Brook tired & Jones began to get to him. There were plenty of uncomfortable moments for both Brook and his fans as Jones began to tag him more often and close him down with ease. By the end of the 12 Rounder, Brook was the one looking bloodied and bruised, with a broken nose to show for his troubles. His work over the first 6 was enough to take the victory on a majority decision verdict…but immediately calls came that perhaps Brook was not yet ready for the very best the division had to offer.

Boxing is funny like that, in the space of 36 minutes you can go from being called a ‘top prospect’ to suddenly becoming someone who has been overhyped. Whilst often unfair it is simply part & parcel of being a boxer…the only thing that one can do is dust themselves off and go again.

For Brook that meant admitting to a case of complacency on his behalf. In the aftermath of that bout he admitted that he had perhaps taken his eye of the ball,

‘I hadn’t had a good training camp and was struggling with my weight before the Jones fight so I tired towards the end,’

The result was a complete gut check on fight night. Whilst struggling against an opponent you are expected to beat with ease is never a good thing, it did allow Brook to show that he can tough it out. His skills have never been questioned but his heart & grit had. In July he at least laid any doubts over those to rest.

This time around he has left no stone unturned in his quest to unsure he is fully prepared and at his very best come fight night. After sitting down with his trainer (Ingle) and promoter, changes were made to the team. A nutritionist was brought in as was strength & conditioning.

Will it make a difference, well come Saturday night we will find out. The man himself however is confident that the changes made will amount to us seeing a new Kell Brook.

“I’m eating well, drinking plenty and I have never been better. I am taking plenty of recovery time and I have had a brilliant 12-week training camp. I am pushing myself more than ever before.

I have left no stone unturned and this Saturday you’re going to see the best of Kell Brook – one that’s good enough to take care of Hector Saldivia.”

In fact so confident is he that he has spoken of retiring if he fails to get past his unknown Argentine opponent.

“People keep saying I have talent so if I can’t get rid of guys like Saldivia I don’t deserve to be at this level.

“That is why I’m saying I will pack up if I don’t beat him on Saturday night.”

It is a worthwhile and honest assessment of where he stands at this moment in his career. Whilst talk of retirement at such a young age for some may seem a tad on the silly side, Brook knows that there is only one level he wants to be fighting at & that is at the very top.

It has been over a year since he first signed with Eddie Hearn under the Matchroom banner following his split with Frank Warren. Upon signing Hearn spoke of his belief that Brook was capable of becoming a superstar. They laid out a plan to make a charge for the title and now just one fight away they both know that everything has to go right this weekend.

Superfights with Amir Khan & Ricky Hatton could be just around the corner. The bright lights of Vegas for fights with the likes of Bradley, Malignaggi, Alexander or Bailey are within touching distance…but only if he shows that he belongs at that level this weekend.

A performance is needed, one which will dazzle the American TV Companies and prove to everyone that Brook is a World Class operator and not just another prospect  who is all style & no substance.

Mega-Fights & Fortune all lie ahead….but the time for talking is over…now is the time for Brook to show everyone just how good he is.

Prediction – Brook via Stoppage 5th/6th Round

Little is known of Brook’s opponent this weekend other than he is Argentinean and his record suggests he can bang. He has been beaten twice before and on both occasions he was stopped. Brook showed last time out that he has a chin, can dig deep and has heart when required…I don’t expect him to have to show any of those qualities this time around. He is fired up and looks in tremendous shape. The only niggling doubt will be whether he puts too much pressure on himself to put on a show.

I think he will go out and put on a performance. He spoke after the Hatton fight of needing to fight with a bit more venom and aggression and this is the perfect opportunity to do that & show that he has the killer instinct needed to make it to the top. The Welterweight division is full of huge names and Brook knows that to get a look in he is going to have to step it up and make people take notice.

Expect a polished performance much like the first half of the Jones fight, though this time there should be no reason for a drop off in the pace. In fact I’m not so sure it will get into the 2nd half of the fight if Brook can sit down on his punches a little. If he does so then I expect the referee to call a stop to the contest somewhere around the 5th/6th Round.

Boxing – A sport which is an art, a sweet science or for some just pure brutality. Many people will have a differing opinion on just how boxing should be defined as a sport. What is without question though is that it is one which quite literally takes blood, sweat & tears.

Those who love the sport watch in amazement at the dedication & hard work committed in ones attempt to become one of the very best. Very few reach the absolute pinnacle…those that do can lay claim to fame and riches. For many though mediocrity and a normal living is all the trouble they get for weeks spent in the gym and years of being punched in the face.

Paralysis, slurred speech, Parkinson’s & even death, just some of the dangers faced by those who choose this sport as a way of life. It’s not just during their career where adversity is faced…for many the buzz can never be replaced. The adrenalin and adulation is like no other and when it’s all gone there is the realisation that ‘real life’ lays ahead of them. Depression, drug abuse and trouble with the law can all occur.

But in amongst it all there are moments of real comedy, tales filled with humour, press conferences and interviews which capture the wit, eloquence and funny side to this great sport.

Here I take a look at some of the funniest one liner, small tales from within boxing and just generally funny quotes from those at the very heart of it. Enjoy!!

Muhammad Ali – There was no better talker in history than ‘The Greatest’, whether he was stirring up anger in his opponent, whittling off pre-fight predictions or mocking his good friend Howard Cosell.

“Fifteen referees. I want fifteen referees to be at this fight because
there ain’t no one man who can keep up with the pace I’m gonna set
except me. There’s not a man alive who can whup me. I’m too fast. I’m
too smart. I’m too pretty. I should be a postage stamp. That’s the
only way I’ll ever get licked.”

”I’m the best. I just haven’t played yet.” (On how good his golf game is)

“At one time Howard (Cosell) was considering a boxing career… They couldn’t find a mouth piece BIG enough”

He didn’t always get it his own way mind. In one attempt to once more show his wit he came unstuck, it was during an exchange with a flight attendant and reportedly it went as follows:

Flight Attendant: ‘’Sir the Captain has asked that ALL passengers fasten their seatbelt’s’
ALI: ‘’Superman don’t NEED no seatbelt’’
Flight Attendant: ‘’Superman don’t need NO plane’’

Randall “Tex” Cobb – Known for his chin, perhaps the best in the history of the sport and his famous one sided fight where he took a hiding for 15 Rounds against Larry Holmes. Cobb was as quick witted as they came.

(Asked about a possible rematch against Larry Holmes) “I don’t think his hands can take the abuse”

“Larry Holmes doesn’t hit as hard as Earnie Shavers. Nobody hits like Shavers. If anybody hit harder than Shavers, I’d shoot him.”

“Larry Holmes didn’t beat me he just won the first 15 rounds”

“When I got up I stuck to my plan — stumbling forward and getting hit in the face.”

During the referee’s instructions prior to his bout with Shavers, the ref asked the customary “Any questions”? Cobb replied “Can I bite him”?

Here are some more from various fighters & figures within the sport:

Willie Pep – “I’ve got it made. I’ve got a wife and a TV set — and they’re both
working.”

Brian London – answering if he would fight Ali again: “Sure, as long as he ties a 56 lb. weight to each leg.”

George Foreman: “Bob, I can’t chase these guys anymore.”
Bob Arum: “George, I can’t put it in the contracts that they can’t run.”

Tony Sibson – on being beaten in a match: “I figured I’d find him sooner or later but I never did. I asked myself “Where did he go?” I knew he was there because he kept hitting me.

Eddie Shaw – referring to Herol “Bomber” Graham: “He has turned defensive boxing into a poetic art. Trouble is, nobody ever knocked anybody out with a poem.”

Blackie Sherrod – talking about a heavyweight contender: “He has everything a boxer needs except speed, stamina, a punch, and ability to take punishment. In other words, he owns a pair of shorts.”

Max Baer – when asked for his definition of fear: “Standing across the ring from Joe Louis and knowing he wants to go home early.”

Max Baer – During a break between rounds in his fight with Joe Louis, having taken a beating during the round an exchange of words took place between Baer & Jack Dempsey who was working his corner.

Jack Dempsey – “you’re doing fine, he hasn’t touched you’

Max Baer – “well you better talk to that referee, because someone is beating the blazes out of me!

Mickey Duff – ‘’So many of Barry Hearn’s boxers end up in hospital, he should sell his limousine and buy an ambulance.’’

John Conteh – After his heavy defeat by Matthew Saad Muhammad – ‘’I’m going down so often these days you’d think I was making a blue movie.’’

Chuck Wepner  – ‘’I was six foot one inch when I started fighting, but with all the uppercuts I’m up to six foot five inches.’’

Jake LaMotta – ‘’The three toughest fighters I’ve ever been up against were Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Sugar Ray Robinson. I fought Sugar so many times, I’m surprized I’m not diabetic! But I did have him off the canvas once…when he stepped over my body to leave the ring.’’

Bob Arum – after his fighter, Iran Barkley, won a fight: “If you think Barkley was mad before the fight, wait until he sees how many people are taking part of his purse’’

Henry Cooper – replying to boxing abolitionist, Baroness Edith Summerskill, about the brutalities of his sport.

Baroness: “Mr. Cooper, have you looked in the mirror lately and seen the state of your nose?”
Cooper: “Well madam, have you looked in the mirror and seen the state of your nose? Boxing is my excuse. What’s yours?”

Willie Pastrano – Answering the fight doctor during his title bout against Jose Torres when asked, ‘’Do you know where you are?’’ he responded with ‘’you’re damn right I know where I am! I’m in Madison Square Garden getting the sh*t kicked out of me.”

Please feel free to add any others that may know of or heard, be it tales from after dinner speeches, press conferences you may have been at or just general ones you may have heard.

‘This is my last chance saloon’…

These are words which are spoken frequently in sports, none more so than that of boxing. For Audley Harrison however it has become somewhat of a trademark saying.

Since winning Olympic Gold at the Sydney Games in 2000, the British Heavyweight has been on a long journey. A journey which has seen him promise so much yet deliver very little. Such are his failings since joining the pro ranks; he is now mockingly referred to as ‘Fraudley’.

A little harsh perhaps, yet it is not his failure to fulfil the talent which he once showed that irks boxing fans, more so that he has continued to trade off the fame of winning that medal 12 years ago.

This weekend he once again finds himself with a shot at redemption, this time it is offered in the presence of a fight against one of Britain’s biggest rising prospects…Liverpool Heavyweight David Price.

Many fans and pundits question whether Audley deserves another chance in the spotlight given the number of squandered opportunities he has had…none highlighting just how far he has fallen than his performance against David Haye almost two years ago.

Before that contest he had spoken of his desire to finally achieve his aim of becoming a Heavyweight champion. He even managed to convince some that he was going to deliver & that the Audley who would turn up that night would be different to the previous ones we had all seen.

In the end it was a case of déjà vu, within 9 minutes he had been stopped…and he hadn’t even mustered the energy or bravery to throw a meaningful punch. It was a performance which left little argument as to whether he was more ‘A-Farce’ than ‘A-Force’.

Whilst the pundits and media question whether Audley deserves to be in the ring Saturday, Price simply asks who else there is.

He may have a point; just as the scene at World level remains sparse so does the domestic picture. Sam Sexton & John McDermott have already been disposed of whilst the likes of Matt Skelton and Michael Sprott provide no more difficulty and rather less of a name.

Of course there is David Haye but at this stage one feels he may be a step too far…and regardless he has already stated his intention that only one fight remains out there for him. Then of course there is the other ‘prospect’…Tyson Fury. This is a fight which many want to see, yet the likelihood is that it is one which is going to be left to simmer for some time longer.

Price sees this fight as the next logical step on his path to a title shot. He has spoken about this being his toughest test to date yet hasn’t shied away from the question marks which hang over his opponent.

‘’Audley is the best opponent I’ll have faced as a pro. The man’s a former Olympic Games gold medallist and European professional champion. He won Prizefighter and challenged for the world heavyweight title. The man’s got serious ability and credentials. Fighting spirit? Maybe not as much’’!

Whether he believes that statement or not remains to be seen but Price knows that he must remain focused and has to consider Harrison as a threat if he is to ensure he does not become complacent on the night.

As for his opponent, he is once again insistent that things will be different this time around.

‘This is not talk this time. I talk a good fight I know, but I am coming to walk through him and separate myself from the pack.

‘I can understand when people don’t believe me, but I talk like how I see it.

‘You can’t live a lie when you’re on that starting line and I have lived a lie in the amateurs and professional game.

‘I did just enough to win because I had that talent and chip on my shoulder to pull it out, but that ignorant guy doesn’t exist anymore.

Whilst the honesty is a refreshing side to the usual bravado and brash statements of intent from the Londoner the fact remains that he has always talked a better game than he has fought. The chances of that changing for this fight are slim to none in most people’s eyes.

At the Echo Arena, come Saturday, the pressure will only be on one person. It will not only be a pressure to win but to do so in emphatic fashion. Price will know that nothing less than a knockout victory will suffice if he is to move onwards and upwards…especially given the opponent who will be across the ring from him.

For Audley it not only could, but very much should be the ‘last chance saloon’. Only a lack of other names have gifted him this shot. Should he fail to deliver once again then even he must admit to his delusions of grandeur and finally hang up his gloves on a career which has seen him earn more than his performances have ever deserved.

Prediction

I fully expect a victory for David Price this weekend & a comprehensive one at that. There is nothing to suggest that Harrison will bring anything different to the table especially at the age of 40. If he hasn’t delivered yet then the sad fact is that he never will. Whilst his size and southpaw jab should provide some kind of test his aversion to actually throwing shots will allow Price to get on top of him early. Expect a dominant opening couple of rounds with Price working behind the long jab before he finds a fight ending right hand in the 3rd round. This has one sided affair written all over it….and I think that Price will finish him in much the same manner as Haye did but will do so whilst handing out a little more punishment.